Brian Rutenberg, in his Studio Visit #18 , quotes a German artist, Walter Sickert, who said, “Drawing is about captivity. Painting is about freedom.” This one little quote has stuck with me and caused all kinds of back & forth in my brain as I consider what’s being said here. I don’t think Rutenberg is in any way pitting the one against the other to somehow say that one is better than another. He is merely putting forth a fundamental difference in the ACTION of or the RESULT of drawing & that of painting.
He says, “I’m really invested in that notion of capturing something and using that as a springboard into the process of abstraction.”
I love that. Brian calls himself a Painter. Every time I hear him say that, I find myself wanting to say…”And I am a Drawer.” Which doesn’t mean that I do not paint…I do and love to paint! But fundamentally I love to capture the Beauty of the world around me whether it be recognizable things, places, people, or events which are inherently lovely OR whether it is something I’ve had to hunt for in the midst of the mundane in life, or even in the painful places of life. I feel it is my job to look for and capture any hint of Beauty by drawing it in my sketchbook or on larger pieces of paper or canvases.
I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Brian Rutenberg’s drawings of trees (you can see a few of them in the documentaries). They are exquisite. I have done a fair amount of drawing/painting trees and they are some of my favorite works. As I look at his “drawings” of trees, they seem very painterly to me. This distinction between what is considered “drawing” and what is considered “painting” is not a black and white issue to me. I believe one can paint with a pen, a pencil, and with charcoal…mediums that are typically associated with drawing. And I believe one can draw with watercolor, acrylics, and oils…definitely paint substances. Is it merely the presence of line which marks a drawing? Is it the evidence of brushstrokes which denotes a painting? Or is it a massed-in approach (blocking in the large shapes before the smaller ones) which deems a work a painting? Or…what? I’ve settled on it being a fuzzy area and which really doesn’t need to be defined.
But if I go with Sickert’s definition here, I have to say that I am definitely a DRAWER. My eyes are constantly on the lookout for things/people/events/places that I want to capture in my sketchbook or larger papers or canvases. Yet even Sickert’s definition may be fluid. As I capture these moments by drawing them, I experience a sense of freedom. As if, the simple act of drawing (or painting:) sets me free to say “yes” to the moment, to accept where I am, and to fully inhabit the gamut of life’s beauties.
So…was I drawing or painting the first image? How ’bout the tree…did I draw it or paint it? It really doesn’t matter. I was definitely capturing something, whether it was an idea about the tangle of creative thoughts or an assertion of the wisdom and experience of an old tree. In capturing these, I was also freeing them to exist somewhere other than in that space and time AND freeing me to embrace all the wonder that life has to offer. I do enjoy thinking about these things. It seems that Mr. Rutenberg does also.
Thank you, once again, Brian.
And here’s a quote by Edgar Degas I came across recently…good stuff to think about: